12 of the world’s best wildlife holidays
The COVID-19 crisis and the sudden drop in tourism has had a devastating impact on wildlife, conservation and the people who live and work in and around national parks and wildlife areas around the world. One way you can help is to consider making your next adventure a wildlife holiday, whether it’s this year or for 2021. Booking a wildlife holiday means your money can directly help animals, conservation efforts and local people recover after the crisis.
Here are 12 incredible wildlife holidays, including Kenya, Canada, Tanzania, India, South Africa, Zambia and Scotland…
1: SkySafari Kenya Classic including Amboseli, Meru and Maasai Mara
This 8-day private jet safari from Elewana captures Kenya’s true essence. Travelling between national parks and reserves in a private plane, you’ll marvel at Amboseli’s famous elephants under the majestic peak of Kilimanjaro, before losing yourself in the Hollywood romance of Meru, the setting for the film Born Free, where wildlife includes rhinos, lions, Reticulated giraffe, Grevy’s zebra, beisa oryx and gerenuks. Finally, you’ll be awed by some of the world’s finest wildlife viewing in the renowned Maasai Mara, a chance to see lions, leopards, elephants, zebra, wildebeest and striking bird life.
How does the trip help? SkySafari supports the Wildlife Warrior Program, which helps educate local children to become the next generation of conservationists. Elewana Elsa’s Kopje lodge in Meru works with the Rhino Sanctuary of Meru National Park, home to over 70 white and 30 black rhinos. In the Maasai Mara, guest contributions help maintain a medical camp where doctors volunteer to treat hundreds of patients free of charge.
Price: £5,560 ($6950) per person for an 8-day trip, including full-board accommodation, transfers, guided safaris and activities.
2: On the tiger’s trail in India’s central parks
Audley’s Indian safari will bring you up-close with a whole host of storybook creatures: the rare sloth bear, boar, mongoose, sambar, swamp deer, and 15 species of monkey, not to mention the famous Bengal tiger. You’ll visit Kanha and Bandhavgarh national parks and Bandhavgarh Fort, visit the iconic Taj Mahal and explore Old Delhi’s vibrant streets. National parks play an important role in tiger conservation, which has contributed to an increase in tiger populations since Project Tiger’s inception in 1973, when only 263 tigers were left.
How does the trip help? Audley’s an active member of charity alliance Tour Operators for Tigers and donates some of the proceeds from their India trips to the cause. They also select hotels in parks’ buffer zones that provide vital employment and support for local communities, such as Flame of the Forest, which helps fund Hathi, a social enterprise providing training and work opportunities for local women.
Price: £3,380 per person for 12 days with transfers, tours, accommodation and international flights from the UK / 11 days from $3,995 per person for the US, excluding international flights.
3: Quest for the aye-aye and undiscovered Masoala in Madagascar
Bigger than France and situated off East Africa, the Indian Ocean island of Madagascar is one of the world’s great wildlife destinations. Travel with Reef & Rainforest to the north-eastern rainforests of the Masoala peninsula where the Farankaraina reserve is one of the few locations in which the endangered, nocturnal aye-aye – the most mysterious lemur – can reliably be seen. Masoala supports Madagascar’s greatest biodiversity. Other remarkable species seen in Masoala’s primary rainforests include the helmet vanga bird, rare lemurs including red-ruffed, white-fronted brown and northern bamboo, flatid leaf bug, giraffe necked weevil, leaf tail geckos and various chameleons, as well as many species of butterflies.
How does the trip help? Farankaraina reserve is small and little-visited, so each visitor provides much-needed revenue for local rangers to protect the aye-ayes. At the trip’s second location, guests stay in a comfortable rustic lodge which mainly employs local villagers. Lodges along the wild Masoala coast act as sentinels against illegal loggers and poachers in the national park.
Booking: +44-(0)1803 866965, email@example.com
Price: £2945 (USD $3534) per person for 10-day trip, including accommodation, transfers, excursions, guides, meals and domestic flights.
4: West coast wildlife odyssey cruise in Scotland
This fantastic 4-night guided wildlife-watching tour with Hebridean Adventures cruises the incredible coastline of the Highlands of Scotland, from Ullapool to Mallaig, including visits to the Isle of Skye and the Torridon mountains. While cruising, you’ll search for whales, dolphins, porpoise and seabirds. Closer to the coastline, you’ll have a chance to see seals, white-tailed and golden eagles, basking sharks, otters and red deer. Exploring on land, you might spot red squirrels, crested tits and more in the Caledonian pine forest.
How does the trip help? Hebridean Adventures work closely with researchers at marine charity Hebridean Whale & Dolphin Trust, Whale and Dolphin Conservation UK and also the Sea Watch Foundation, providing details of cetacean and basking shark sightings and fin ID photographs to help them recognise individual animals and plot their range and activity.
Booking: +44 (0)1796 482471 / firstname.lastname@example.org
Price: £1,280 ($1,700) per person for an all-inclusive 5 day/4-night cruise, including transfers to/from Inverness. 8 guests maximum. Private Group Charter option.
5: Explore the heart and soul of Tanzania
Travel with Black Panther Safaris into the wildlife-rich national parks of Tanzania’s Northern Corridor. From Arusha, travel west in a luxury truck to Tarangire National Park, home to Tanzania’s largest elephant population, then to the vast, world-famous Serengeti to see abundant life, including lions, cheetahs, leopards, elephants, giraffes and great herds of water buffalo. Next, you’ll spend time with thousands of zebra and wildebeests in the Ngorongoro Crater, with a chance to observe black rhino. Finish with an optional flight to Zanzibar for beach relaxation, Arabic architecture and influences from the spice trade.
How does the trip help? For every safari booked, Black Panther Safaris help send a Maasai girl to school for a year via the Black Panther Legacy Scholarship. The company also make a 1 per cent promise to provide funding to anti-poaching K-9 units around the country, via the Lion’s Share Fund, helping stop Africa’s big cats of Africa from getting caught in local snares.
Booking: +1 203 661 0152 (also works for WhatsApp) / email@example.com
Price: From USD $13,689 (approx. £10,877) per person, including transfers, accommodation, meals, drinks, private LandCruiser, guide and park fees.
6: Adventure and wildlife protection in Cambodia’s Cardamom mountains
Located in the South Cardamom National Park, three hours south of Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville, Bensley Collection’s Shinta Mani Wild is an exclusive private nature sanctuary. The extravagant tented camp is set along a 4-km stretch of wild river and waterfalls, with (optional) entry via an exhilarating 400m zipline. This experiential luxury adventure gives intimate access to one of Asia’s most remarkable forest ecosystems, with local wildlife including clouded leopards, elephants, slow loris, gibbons, Indian muntjac deer and pangolins, as well as many birds and butterflies.
How does the trip help? Guests can join Wildlife Alliance rangers motorcycling through the forest on anti-poaching patrols and tracking wildlife activity. Funded by Shinta Mani, the camp’s ranger station enables the non-profit to protect animals from poaching, remove snares and prevent illegal logging.
Booking: +855 63 969 123, firstname.lastname@example.org
Price: USD1,500 (£1,195) per tent per night (*Special price for New Big 5 readers for direct bookings), including food, drinks, activities, spa treatments, Bensley Butler and transfers. Mimimum age 10 years.
7: Wild dog conservation and photographic expedition in South Africa
Rare and endangered African wild dogs are often elusive to safari guests. But there are fantastic opportunities to see and photograph them in South Africa’s Madikwe Reserve, where wild dogs are used to seeing vehicles and not skittish. Lankester White Safaris recommends the private use Morukuru Owners’ House or River House in the Madikwe Reserve, both of which have been refurbished with all-new interiors. Madikwe Game Reserve, a 750 square km conservation area that’s a 4-hour drive or 1-hour flight from Johannesburg, is also home to lions, leopards, elephants, black and white rhinos, cheetah and 350 bird species.
How does the trip help? The Morukuru Goodwill Foundation (MGWF) offers the opportunity to contribute to research through their Safari With A Purpose package, with guests paying to spend time with researchers and wildlife vets, and take part in collaring protected animals, such wild dogs or rhinos.
Price: 4-nights at Morukuru Owner’s Lodge for a family of 4 from ZAR 44,860 (£2,150 / $2,692) per person, including transfers and internal ﬂights, game activities, meals and drinks. Safari With A Purpose is an additional ZAR 65,000 (£3,115 / $3899) per group.
8: Discover the Yukon’s wildlife and wilderness in Canada
Windows On The Wild’s 10-night self-drive adventure through the Yukon’s pristine wilderness in north-west Canada takes in majestic, mountainous Kluane National Park, with the opportunity to see Dall sheep, mountain goats, grizzly and black bear, ptarmigans, owls and moose, including a guided wildlife hike. At Yukon Wildlife Preserve, which includes a private two-hour tour, keep your eyes peeled for caribou, lynx, elk and bison. The trip also includes a full day tour of Tombstone Territorial Park, near the gold rush town Dawson City, with fantastic opportunities for backpacking and mountain-climbing among peaks, meadows and sparkling lakes.
How does the trip help? Yukon Wildlife Preserve is a registered non-profit. Visitors’ entrance fees help Dr. Maria Hallock and her team provide 24-hour care for the Yukon’s most vulnerable animals (bison, moose, caribou…), including rescue animals, at the Wildlife Research and Rehabilitation Centre, as well as contributing to the preserve’s wildlife education and scientific research.
Booking: +44 208 742 1556/ email@example.com
Price: 10-night Yukon Wildlife Discovery from £2580 (approx. USD $3,235) per person, including accommodation in Whitehorse, Dawson City and full board at Dalton Trail Lodge near Kluane NP, plus tours, hikes and fully inclusive car hire.
9: Experience Matetsi Magic and Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe
Matetsi Victoria Falls is located in northern Matabeleland, Zimbabwe, 40km up the mighty Zambezi River from the incredible natural wonder of Victoria Falls. This is a true wilderness experience on a 55,000 hectare private wildlife concession, with tranquil private river frontage and warm Zimbabwean hospitality, all within a stone’s throw of the mighty ‘Smoke That Thunders.’ Key species in Matetsi Private Game Reserve include elephants, huge herds of buffalo, lions, leopards, African wild dogs, impala, sable and more. You can also go fishing, canoeing or take a sunrise or sunset boat cruise on the Zambezi river.
How does the trip help? Matetsi supports a number of community projects through Pack For A Purpose, which helps distribute school supplies, clothing, linens and First Aid to local people. Matetsi has a 100 per cent Zimbabwean staff compliment on the property. The owners have committed to ensuring job security for employees through the COVID-19 crisis period.
Price: From USD $1,160 (approx. £932) per person per night all-inclusive, including food, drinks, safaris, activities and transfers to/from Victoria Falls.
10: Wild dogs of Laikipia and big cats of the Mara in Kenya
This trip with Offbeat Safaris is an incredible chance to experience Sosian in West Laikipia and huge concentrations of wildlife in Mara North Conservancy. Sosian has more than 60,000 acres of wilderness to explore by safari vehicle, horse, camel or on foot, with giraffe, elephants, lions and African wild dogs for company. Offbeat Mara is a small, traditional safari camp inside 74,000-acre Mara North Conservancy (MNC), an area renowned for big cats experience, including leopards, cheetah and lions.
How does the trip help? Offbeat Mara’s one of the founding members of Mara North Conservancy, a partnership between more than 800 Maasai families and 12 tourism partners. A stay here helps support the ecosystem, including some of Kenya’s highest concentrations of big cats. Conservation fees for Sosian help protect the 24,000-acre conservancy, with contributions also funding research and collaring initiatives for Laikipia’s endangered wild dog. Tourism income also supports a primary school and medical clinic.
Booking: +254 (0)704 909 355/ 6, firstname.lastname@example.org
Price: USD $527 (approx. £421) per person per night for an 8-night trip (4 nights at each property), including (meals, drinks, transfers, game drives and activities.
11: Swim with killer whales and see humpback whales and northern lights in Norway
Thousands of orcas, or killer whales, come into Arctic Norway’s coastal waters from November through January to feed on the North Atlantic Herring that spend the winter in the dramatic fjords. Captained by conservationist and expedition sailor Andreas B. Heide, this trip with Momentum offers a chance to track wild orca. At first sight of a pod, it’s straight into the water to swim with these powerful, yet peaceful, creatures. This adventure’s also an opportunity to see humpback whales and the unforgettable northern lights.
How does the trip help? The boat’s crew collaborate with Turnss to collect data that drives the debate on plastic pollution and human impact on the oceans. Contributors to the Ocean Data Foundation, their work informs decision-making on how to conserve our oceans’ resources. Like many countries, Norway’s been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis and local people will benefit from the money brought in by tourism.
Booking: +44 (0)7958905092, email@example.com
Price: From £8,000 (USD$10,083) per day for the boat and two crew members, all-inclusive for up to three guests. Larger boat available on request.
12: Best of Zambia, including South Luangwa, Lower Zambezi and Victoria Falls
Ntanda Ventures’s 11-night Zambia trip takes in South Luangwa National Park, a chance to experience walking safaris, night drives, star beds, a photographic hide and the Luangwa Valley’s only natural hot tub in, alongside sightings of leopards, lions, elephants, Thornicroft’s giraffe and sometimes wild dogs and pangolins. The islands, lagoons and floodplains of Lower Zambezi National park on the banks of the Zambezi River attract 50 mammal species and 400 bird species, with day and night game drives, walking, canoeing, angling and river cruising. Livingstone is a chance to relax, horse-ride, bird-watch, take river cruises and explore the famous Victoria Falls.
How does the trip help? Conservation levies and guests support local projects, including Conservation South Luangwa’s anti-poaching, aerial surveillance, human-wildlife conflict mitigation and sniffer dog unit, Project Luangwa’s gender support, education, art projects and Mfuwe ecobricks, and Conservation Lower Zambezi’s wildlife protection, environmental education and research, chilli farming, hippo fences, clinics, guide training and female empowerment program.
Booking: 0026 096 6904376, firstname.lastname@example.org
Price: USD$5391(around £4217) per person for an 11-night trip, including transfers, food and drink, guided safaris, but excluding international flights.
Leopard photo (top) by Graeme Green: www.graeme-green.com
We’re grateful to the companies above for making a small donation to the New Big 5 project to be featured in this article, which helps us to be able to continue working on this initiative to raise awareness and money for wildlife causes.